Mountain, murder, or Mexico?

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Nearly thirty years have passed since Keith Reinhard walked away from Silver Plume, Colorado.  He still hasn’t come back.

Unwittingly or not, Reinhard left behind a tangled series of questions that has given birth to a story of legend in the tiny mountain town of Silver Plume.

Sorting through the known facts and theories, each boil down to three central topics: mountain, murder, and Mexico.
 

MOUNTAIN?

Keith Reinhard foolishly decided to hike to the top of Pendleton Mountain on the evening of August 7, 1988 and succumbed to some unknown accident.  Perhaps he fell on the way up?  Or did he have a heart attack?  Or maybe he was killed by a wild animal? Despite an extensive search of Pendleton Mountain in the weeks following Reinhard’s disappearance, no trace of Keith has ever been found.
 

MURDER?

Members of the Reinhard family and close friends still believe that Keith may have been digging too deeply into the disappearance of Tom Young, a Silver Plume bookseller who vanished the year prior.  By all accounts, Keith was fascinated with Tom’s case and went about questioning local residents who knew Young as a basis of research for the novel he intended to write that summer in 1988.  Might he have stumbled upon information that made someone in town uneasy?  Or was Keith abducted on his way out of Silver Plume that day by some mystery assailant?
 

MEXICO?

Many people in Silver Plume believe Keith purposely disappeared to start a new life, leaving behind an intentional trail of questions to throw the initial investigation off the track.  It’s been alleged that Reinhard announced his hike up Pendleton to numerous Silver Plume residents, many of which he did not personally know.  He also apparently gave conflicting accounts of which direction he was actually planning to hike.  These details, as well as the subsequent plane crash and death of pilot Terry Leadens during the official search for Reinhard, have led many local residents to suspect Keith may have chosen not to return.  Might he be living in a foreign country somewhere?

Interviewing Lt. Steve Gremillion at the Clear Creek County Sheriff's Office - Georgetown, Colorado

Interviewing Lt. Steve Gremillion at the Clear Creek County Sheriff's Office - Georgetown, Colorado

All of this begs the question: what is the state of the case today with local investigators?  Was anything discovered that was unreleased to the public?  Was the case active within the department or collecting dust in a file cabinet somewhere?

The answer turned out to be somewhere in the middle.

My team and I approached the Clear Creek County Sheriff’s Office in 2016 with the desire to revive the case within the department itself.

News of a documentary being produced about Reinhard’s case certainly had spread fast throughout Silver Plume.  We were surprised to learn the Sheriff’s Department was already aware of our film prior to us reaching out.  That’s right.  It’s a very small town.

We were connected with Lieutenant Steve Gremillion, the current investigator assigned to the Keith’s case.  Not surprisingly, it seemed we knew more about the case than the current department did.  However, there were intimate details within the original case files that provided some crucial clues for developing our opinions of the case.

With Gremillion’s assistance, we spent hours digging through the case files for both Keith Reinhard and Tom Young, making copies of everything we could get our hands on.

Lt. Gremillion requested that we begin the process of collecting DNA samples from the Reinhard family for unidentified remains comparison.  Over the years since Keith’s disappearance, several sets of skeletal remains had been discovered throughout the county.  The tantalizing possibility that any of one these bones could possibly belong to Keith was an avenue that absolutely had to be explored.

Lt. Steve Gremillion with Keith Reinhard's son, Kai-Allen Reinhard - April 2016

Lt. Steve Gremillion with Keith Reinhard's son, Kai-Allen Reinhard - April 2016

With the help of both the Clear Creek County Sheriff and Pasadena Police Department, we collected buccal swab samples from Reinhard’s son, daughter, and ex-wife, the mother of his children.

The samples were then sent to NAMUS, the national missing and unidentified persons system, where they were entered into CODIS and compared to thousands of DNA profiles.

So far, there have been no hits.

With this being established, I’m lead back to my initial feeling - that Keith Reinhard perished on Pendleton Mountain that day in 1988.

But, you know what’s interesting?  Many in Silver Plume would strongly disagree with me.  Whispers, rumors, and nearly thirty years of conjecture have blossomed into a unique and fascinating myth within the town.  Rampant speculation has given way to a form of true crime folklore in the tiny town of Silver Plume.

These psychological observations lie at the core of Dark Side of the Mountain - the human desire for answers when none exist.

The Mysterious Disappearance of Keith Reinhard

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My curiosity often gets the best of me. It's been a driving force that continues to fuel my desire for nonfiction filmmaking. From my perspective, digging into any cold case requires an extreme level of curiosity to keep you going through the many twists and turns you may encounter along the way.

Something to get on the table right off the bat - I am a diehard Unsolved Mysteries fanatic.  The original NBC series left scars on me from a very early age.  It wasn't just Robert Stack's brooding presence or Gary Remal Malkin's hair-raising score.  It was the visceral nature of how this program covered their true crime stories that burnt itself into my memory.  Sure, the reconstructions were sometimes hokey, but the questions those segments raised were unforgettable.  Few other documentary series have come close to capturing the imagination as that show did.  There were dozens of unexplained murders and missing persons profiled whose names have remained upmost in my mind.  Sadly, many of these cases remain unsolved to this day.

I've continued to pursue so many of these lesser-known cases over the years; however, there is one that has always fascinated me more than any other: the mysterious disappearance of Keith Reinhard.

Keith Reinhard's abandoned antique shop in Silver Plume, Colorado - Courtesy of The Daily Herald

Keith Reinhard's abandoned antique shop in Silver Plume, Colorado - Courtesy of The Daily Herald

Keith Reinhard was a Chicago-based sportswriter who moved to the tiny Colorado mountain town of Silver Plume during the summer of 1988 to write, reflect, and regenerate.  With his fiftieth birthday quickly approaching, Keith was determined to recapture his youth, open up his own antique shop, overcome his fear of heights, and begin writing a novel.

At 5 PM on August 7, 1988, Keith closed up his shop for the day, telling friends that he was hiking to the summit of nearby Pendleton Mountain - a hike Keith knew would take at least six hours.  He never returned.

Preceding his own disappearance, Reinhard had become obsessed with Tom Young, another Silver Plume resident who had vanished the year prior.  Oddly, Young had occupied the same storefront that Keith now operated.

Working within these same walls, Tom Young became the basis of Reinhard's novel - writings that eerily mimic Keith's own disappearance.

Reinhard found in Young's fate an invitation to examine his own mortality.  Alone at his desk in Silver Plume, Keith composed his meditation on dying:

Once you know death, once you’ve accepted it, the fear is gone. All that remains is the anticipation.
— Keith Reinhard

Many theories surround what became of Reinhard that day in 1988.  Some believe Keith simply set out for a hike, attempting to scale Pendleton Mountain and died trying.  Yet despite one of Colorado's largest land and air searches, no trace of Keith Reinhard has ever been found.  And with the passage of decades, many unanswered questions have accumulated for Reinhard’s family.

Is it possible Keith set up his own disappearance?  Did he commit suicide?  Did the disappearance of Tom Young have any relationship to his own?

Shooting in Silver Plume, Colorado

Shooting in Silver Plume, Colorado

For nearly fifteen years, I worked in the shadows collecting articles on the case and familiarizing myself with its main participants.  I had always felt strangely compelled to travel to Silver Plume. Something about its lonely position and subtle eeriness seemed to attract my creative soul.

The town is surrounded by mountains. In the winter, the north side of town receives only two hours of direct sunlight each day.  Tom Young had lived to the south - the dark side of the mountain that the sun doesn't touch for almost five months of the year.

In July of 2013, my curiosity finally got the best of me.  I decided to drive out to Silver Plume to see the town for myself.  I was not disappointed.  It truly is a hauntingly magnificent place.  As someone who also longs to escape the city, it's not hard to imagine why Keith Reinhard was drawn to the area.

I spent the majority of my time talking with locals, pulling records, and shooting a large amount of b-roll throughout the area.  Upon my return, I edited all of this footage down into a small atmospheric piece, capturing the mood of the town itself.

Starting in 2014, my team and I began working in conjunction with Reinhard's family to produce the documentary feature, Dark Side of the Mountain (a title inspired by Reinhard’s own writings).

The film explores the lingering mystery that surrounds the unexplained disappearance of Keith Reinhard through a chilling composite of narrative psychology and haunting imagery.  Using personal insight from Reinhard’s own letters, short stories, and poems, the film paints a vivid reconstruction of Keith’s unfinished novel in his own words - writings that have been lost for nearly two decades.

As a director, one of the most important aspects of crafting this film has been ensuring our subject, Keith Reinhard, has an accurate voice within the finished piece.  To accomplish this, much of the film's structure will focus on Keith's personal writings. This includes letters, poems, and short stories penned by Reinhard during that fateful summer in Silver Plume.

One of Keith's early poems stands out as chillingly prophetic:

Oh, God, I want to wander
I want to wander til I die
With the mountains as my living room,
My only roof the sky
— Keith Reinhard

Since announcing the film’s production, we've had many friends and acquaintances of Reinhard reach out and share their memories with us.  Many of people's stories and recollections have been helpful in constructing the film.

If you knew Keith Reinhard, we would love to hear from you!

I’m currently finishing our first cut of the feature and will continue to update this blog with tidbits, questions, thoughts, and archival materials related to the case.  I look forward to hearing your feedback.